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Nearly eight years after the series finale of “How I Met Your Mother,” we return to Carter Bays and Craig Thomas’ New York City. Although, this time under the leadership of Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, “How I Met Your Father” follows a different group of friends led by “Lizzie McGuire” star Hilary Duff as they navigate the treacherous waters of modern dating, love, and relationships.

Like our own Valerie Ettenhofer, I enjoyed the first two episodes that premiered on Hulu this week. Initially, I thought that I may have grown tired of the franchise’s signature framing device of the protagonist recounting their love story to their children in the future, but I like the twist of keeping Sophie’s son offscreen in order to further hide the identity of the father. I also found the cast to be very likable, so I’m willing to go on more adventures with this group of fast friends. Plus, it’s always appreciated when the cast of a sitcom set in a major metropolis actually reflects the diversity of the setting.

However, despite the many things that I like about the new show, I find one major obstruction in my road to enjoyment. And this obstruction is big, but not big enough to block the road fully. There’s a teeny tiny space for me to get by and move past the roadblock, but it’ll take a little work for me (a husky dude, mind you) to squeeze through.

The Dating Game

Like “How I Met Your Mother” before it, “How I Met Your Father” is set in the present day and generally looks to depict the state of dating as it is for modern audiences. Yet the version of dating that these two episodes present are a far cry from what dating in 2022 actually looks like. Sure, many parts of the process remain timeless like the search, the first date, the hits, the misses, and the group of trusted confidants to fall back on when things don’t work out. No matter what decade you’re looking for love in, these things remain constant. But things are so off kilter in present times that it’s pretty noticeable when that’s ignored completely.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not want a sitcom about dating during a pandemic. I don’t need to see Sophie, Jesse, and the gang navigating indoor dining restrictions, vaccine mandates, and a constant state of general uncertainty. But when you release something in 2022 and set it in the present day, it’s hard to ignore that fact that all of those things are missing. After all, the lack of masks in anything happening in 2022 is extremely jarring.

As many people who have tried dating during the pandemic will tell you, it’s not great. I mean, it wasn’t that great for me before the pandemic either, but it’s definitely worse now. Matches are very few and far between on dating apps like Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Bumble. When they do occur, instead of meeting up for a first date at a bar or a coffee shop, the text conversations just go on endlessly since it’s too cold for outdoor seating, or cases may be up and someone feels uncomfortable meeting up in person. And on the off chance that an actual date does come together, you still have to consider what kind of germs you might bring home to a family member or an immunocompromised roommate. It isn’t as simple as going out for dinner and a movie, then going back to someone’s apartment for a night cap anymore. And even though a sitcom about young people dating should be an empathetic escape, “How I Met Your Father” is more like a staunch reminder of how things no longer are. It all leaves you a little bummed out once you start thinking about it.

Granted, I am an entertainment journalist and a critic, so it’s my job to excessively analyze each show and movie I consume. And though I typically find comfort in sitcoms, this one made me somewhat sad. As a relatively young person trying to date during a pandemic while trying to be conscious of keeping myself and others around me safe, I find myself yearning for what these characters are experiencing in their alternate 2022 when I watch the show. Like the club in episode 2, I’m feeling serious FOMO. 

A Cheat Code

Again, we really don’t need a sitcom about how hard it is to date during a global pandemic. And it’s not like every show can create as good a quarantine episode as the “Mythic Quest” special between the first and second season. But there’s an easy fix: don’t set your sitcom during a global pandemic. By clearly declaring that “How I Met Your Father” is set in 2022, it becomes impossible for the audience not to associate the perils of the real world with that year. Instead, the series could be set further in the future. Kim Cattrall’s Future Sophie is telling her son the epic tale of his parents’ meeting in the year 2050. There’s plenty of wiggle room for Sophie and her partner to meet, fall in love, have a kid, and raise that kid to college age by 2050. So why not set HIMYF in 2024 (the year Cristin Milioti’s Tracy McConnell passes away) or 2030 (the year that Future Ted tells his kids about how he met their mother)? That way, the audience almost has a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.

Alternatively, “How I Met Your Father” could be set in the past. This story would work just as well in 2017 as it does in 2022. They would just have to alter Jasper’s lines featuring modern day slang. Then, if the show is still around for later seasons, it could tackle pandemic dating down the line with the benefit of retrospect. They could do it as a midseason finale, followed by a time jump to more “normal” times in the following episode so the gang and the audience aren’t forced to relive the mass trauma caused by lockdown, inconsiderate anti-vaxxers, hateful racists, etc.

Honestly, I will probably keep watching “How I Met Your Father” despite this issue. It’s something that could’ve been very easily fixed in pre-production and I’m surprised that the showrunners didn’t take it into consideration during the writing process. If they did, I’d be curious to hear their thought process behind this decision. But moving forward, I just hope that the future episodes are entertaining enough that I’m able to forget about this detail and find the escape that I’m looking for in my sitcoms.

New episodes of “How I Met Your Father” release Tuesdays on Hulu.

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The post What How I Met Your Father Gets Wrong About Dating in 2022 appeared first on /Film.